Meet the Robinsons: A well-meaning, but fairly uneven film.


The history of Walt Disney Animation Studios is incredibly fascinating to look at. Since 1923, they have changed a lot in animation history going back to their debut film "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" back in 1937. Although I love them dearly and have adored most of their films, they've definitely had low points and went through two dark ages; the first in the 1970s to 1980s and the second being in the 2000s. They finally hit rock bottom a second time in 2005 with "Chicken Little" which proved the studio needed help fast. With new management under their belt, they released "Meet the Robinsons" in 2007 to start their road back on top. While the good news is that the film is indeed much better than "Chicken Little", the bad news is that it's still a mess. While I certainly don't hate it, I feel that it doesn't fully reach its potential it could've had. A young orphan boy named Lewis (Jordan Fry) is trying to become an inventor. Despite his ambitions, his inventions blow up in his face and have been scaring off potential future parents much to the dismay of his housemother Mildred (Angela Basset) and his roommate nicknamed Goob (Matthew Josten). One day, he gets the idea to invent a machine that can project memories hoping to find his birth mother and proceeds to take it to the science fair. However, due to the mischief of the Bowler Hat Guy (Stephen Anderson), a devious man with a robotic bowler hat he calls Doris, the machine explodes and Lewis gives up dismayed. However, a kid named Wilbur Robinson (Wesley Singerman) shows up and tells him to fix the machine telling him he's from the future. With Lewis not believing him, Wilbur takes him to the future in a time machine which ends up getting broken after the two crash it. Wanting to fix it before his family finds out, Wilbur tries to get Lewis to fix although the latter ends up meeting the Robinson family instead and crazy mayhem ensues from there. I have really mixed feelings regarding this film. While there are parts of it I love, there are also parts of it I dislike. This film did have an interesting production as it started back in 2004 when David Stainton still ran the studio, but in 2006 the film went through an overhaul and at least 60% of the film was changed. It's pretty evident that these changes were late as when you look back on the trailers, there's a lot of stuff that didn't end up in the film including a line where the Bowler Hat Guy claims he invented a machine and even Wilbur sounding a lot younger in the film as his voice actor went through puberty during rewrites and was forced to have his voiceover work be completely redone. While I do like some of the scenes and see the work of the new management here, I also saw a lot of the old management's fingerprints all over it as it reminded me a lot of "Chicken Little" at times. It's nowhere near as unpleasant or meanspirited as that film, but it's still a mess. The story is very uneven and feels like it's not building to anything spectacular. It felt like it was going through the notions and just was going from place to place encountering these wacky characters in this setting and it got stale really quick. There's so much wackiness I can take before it gets boring. Even the climax of the film felt somewhat stale and the rules involving time travel in this film didn't work which kept making me think back to how "Back to the Future" worked so well. I do however love the ending of this film. It really showed the Disney Animation that was going to make amazing new animated films, but it sadly couldn't save the film. As far as the animation goes, it sadly doesn't hold up. This film reportedly cost the same budget as Pixar's "Ratatouille" and yet while that film has aged beautifully, this looks really dated and the animation looks a lot like "Chicken Little". The characters look like plastic and have awkward movements. There was one scene where a frog has his mind taken over and he was in a different part of the set, but after we cut back to him he's standing in a different spot than he should've even though it's clear he didn't move. Stuff like that really bothered me. I also have mixed feelings on the look of the future. I love William Joyce's work, but it doesn't shine here. The future looks like leftovers from his outstanding work on "Robots" and it doesn't come off looking nearly as amazing as that film, even though it came out two years afterward. I was really disappointed with it. As far as the characters go, they're all over the place with how manic they can be. I couldn't really get attached to Lewis as a protagonist. Throughout most of the film, he constantly gives up and tells himself he's no good and it's just tiresome. He barely does any inventing in this film either because of it which is such wasted potential. Wilbur is pretty annoying and the family is just absolutely manic and crazy. I do like the Bowler Hat Guy though as he had some funny moments and felt like a treat to watch. He was the bright spot of the film. One last thing I wanted to talk about is the humor of the film. This is what ultimately made the film hit and miss for me. For every good joke, there's a lot of duds as well. While a good joke involves the Bowler Hat Gat, telling Goob to not move on from a baseball incident, one of the bad ones involves a dinner fight where the characters talk like a badly dubbed Japanese film where the English dub doesn't match the lip movements. It was really bizarre and didn't work. I will say this though, I do love the message this film is going for. It's a great message and there's even a great quote from Walt Disney at the end of it I really liked. I wish the film had more of that. Sadly, there's a lot about "Meet the Robinsons" I like, but it's not a coherent film overall. The story is manic and a little too much, the animation hasn't aged well and looks dated, and the characters can be somewhat fun but others can be grating. I feel the director Stephen Anderson is a great director and eventually proved it with "Winnie the Pooh" in 2011, but I felt like he was stuck in a position that was doomed as this film still had the old management's fingerprints all over it. At least "Bolt" was lucky enough to get completely redone which is why I think it works better. While I don't think this film works entirely well, I do appreciate what it was going for and Walt Disney Animation Studios kept moving forward to making fantastic new animated films. I appreciate it for that, but I don't really see myself watching this film again.


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